Last week the Design39Campus team had the privilege to travel throughout the Bay Area to explore new ideas and possibilities to implement in our new school. As classroom teachers, we rarely are able to attend conferences or collaborate with educators from other schools or districts. We took advantage of this incredible opportunity and packed our schedule with visits that could help inspire our thinking as we design D39C.
One of the most impressive stops on our journey was not a school, but rather the offices of IDEO. IDEO is a design and consultation firm founded by brothers Tom and David Kelley. They have designed everything from apps, to automobile seating, toys, games, packaging, the computer mouse, the Palm Pilot, and customized buttons. They have worked with companies such as Levi Strauss, Mattel, Apple, Steelcase, Quiksilver, AT&T, and Converse to name a few.
As we approached their offices in Palo Alto, this was the first thing we saw:
The Kelley brothers just released their new book, Creative Confidence, this week. If you have not had a chance to read it, I highly encourage it! You can even read the first 60 pages for free in iBooks. These pictures were taken in the IDEO San Francisco lobby. (If you buy the hardback version, the cover unfolds to create a full size poster. Creative!)
As it turned out, our connection and appointment to tour IDEO did not get fully communicated. However, the receptionist at the front desk, Vicki D., was amazingly helpful in getting us all set up with a tour with Yancy, the Director of Experience. Our first big take away from IDEO? They believe in treating people well. From the moment we walked in the door, we were welcomed and they worked with us to give us the best possible experience on their campus. As Vicki said, “Everyone wants you to succeed here, so they want you happy so you CAN succeed.” Vicki has been working at IDEO since 1989 and says she can’t imagine retiring. That alone speaks volumes about an organization.
The IDEO lobby itself was awe inspiring. As we waited for our tour, we all sat in a yurt with a table made of donut shaped plain white paper and a box of colored pencils. They encourage you to leave your mark when you visit. Of course, we plastered our sheet with messages for changing the way we do school and images of D39C.
IDEO is also responsible for designing the Node chair produced by Steelcase. The chair is on casters with a moveable desktop and underneath storage. It is considered one of the latest and greatest in furniture for educational settings. IDEO painted one of their Nodes with chalkboard paint and wrote messages in chalk for their display.
Creative Confidence is now on bookshelves and IDEO created three extremely large props of the book for their release party. These are also in the lobby, along with the espresso machine, of course.
After telling Yancy about D39C and our mission to change
school the world, we began our tour of the campus. (Unfortunately, from this point forward, we were unable to take photos due to the nature of their business. You’ll have to just use your imagination in this part. In fact, take what I write and multiply it by 500 on the coolness scale and you’ll get a sense of what we experienced.)
Our first stop was the cafe. Yancy explained to us that people come together around food. There is much creativity used in cooking and making a meal. It’s a chance to connect with others, centered around the hearth. IDEO has rituals based around food, such as special homemade soups on Tuesdays and times to gather for tea and homebaked goods. It is a place that people gather together to eat and also work collaboratively. Another thing we have learned on this trip? Companies feed their employees. Well. Each business we visited offered endless supplies of food and drink.
Upstairs, we peeked in on the toy workshop. IDEO creates toys and apps for major companies. Imagine a place where every possible part and accessory is available to design new toys. This workshop was fully equipped with tools, whiteboard topped tables, computers, and endless drawers of random supplies. Yancy explained that they work with their client to empathize and define the problem they are trying to solve. They brainstorm ideas and then begin piecing together parts until they have their prototype. One example was the idea of a football with added wings to help create the perfect spiral. They simply used an existing football, cut slits in the sides, and hot glued on new foam wings. That simple prototype transformed into the Aerobie football, with over 3 million sold worldwide.
We also toured design spaces where groups of people worked collaboratively on projects. Yancy explained that certain groups of people are matched together to create groups that can best meet the design challenge. Each employee has areas of interest, passion, and expertise that help determine the projects they join. The work spaces are flexible and adaptable, with most furniture on casters. Desks and tables are adjustable to sitting or standing levels. Oversized tables are centrally located for use with large projects. Work benches contain every imaginable tool and machine. Supplies are housed in various sized bins hanging off the walls. Moveable Z-racks (think whiteboards) are available to roll in and out of project spaces.
On the IDEO campus, there is also a group of specialty builders working in the machine shops to create design prototypes. They have access to multiple 2D, laser die cut, and 3D printers. These large open warehouse type spaces house the largest machinery, with outlets hanging from the ceiling. Our builders (Bret) in the group were drooling!
The entire experience was inspiring. IDEO is stocked full of people using their creative confidence to re-imagine the world. Design thinking is a powerful process.
So what can a group of teachers learn from a place like IDEO?
- Relationships are vital. Treat people well. Read Jimmy Chion’s article titled, “What it’s like to work at IDEO?”
- Food is important, as well as a central space to gather together.
- Design space with intention. IDEO designs for minimum personal space and maximum collaborative space.
- Don’t be afraid to change your space as needed. IDEO has moved multiple times and is currently in the process of rearranging their current campus to improve access to specialty tools.
- Empathy plays a powerful role in the design process. You must first understand the audience you are designing for and become part of their experience. Great example of this, IDEO – Improving School Lunches By Design for SFUSD.
IDEO’s Ten Tips For Creating a 21st–Century Classroom Experience
Watch David Kelley on 60 Minutes
CBS This Morning
TED – David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence
Thanks, IDEO, for inspiring educators!